Los Angeles is a haven for lovers of Italian culture thanks to the vibrant Italian-American community in the area. From authentic Italian food to refined, modern cuisine, Los Angeles has some of the best Italian food to offer – outside of Italy, of course. Check out our list of the best food, museums, and cultural centers in Los Angeles.
Eatalian Cafe in Gardena – Best Authentic Italian Food
The founder of Eatalian Cafe, Antonio Pellini, came to Los Angeles with the intention of making cheese, but he was told that he could not make traditional Italian cheese under current FDA regulations. Although the classic Neapolitan-style pizza at Eatalian Cafe cannot be surpassed, it’s hard to go wrong with anything you order at this cozy and authentic eatery. Start with traditional antipasti like Crudo e Burrata, and then indulge in any of their fresh homestyle pastas like Tortelli di Zucca or a delicious meat dish. A meal is not complete without sampling their gelato, which is said to be comparable to the best gelato in Italy. Their flagship location is housed in a warehouse in an industrial area of Gardena, but there are also three smaller locations in Gardena and Culver City.
This Michelin-starred Santa Monica establishment is ideal for a romantic or private dinner if you’re looking to indulge in more ways than one. Valentino boasts an impressive wine list with over one hundred thousand bottles, making the decision a difficult one. Their menu features classics like grilled Branzino and Veal Milanese, as well as a ‘Tartufo Feast’ menu, which includes six dishes all featuring truffles. Valentino is known for its extremely high standards for ingredients, which enhances their fresh and authentic Italian dishes. At the same time, Valentino makes a concerted effort to create a modern and evolved dining experience, including vegetarian and gluten-free options included on the menu.
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This bakery has found a way to reproduce pastries and sweets that are reminiscent of those old Italian family recipes your grandmother used to make for Christmas Eve dessert. The location also has a deli that serves classic Italian sub sandwiches, but the traditional cookies are reason enough to stop by this community favorite. With delectable classic cannoli and a chocolate-dipped version, as well as pistachio, pine nut, and almond cookies, everyone is sure to find something to satisfy a sweet tooth. Eagle Rock Italian Bakery is well worth a trip out of LA proper.
Il Tramezzino has created a unique menu of panini sandwiches, each containing fresh ingredients and grilled to perfection. Be sure to try the Chicken Special with an irresistible basil chicken sauce or the Bella sandwich with bufala mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. They also have an impressive array of delicious salads like the popular Salmon Salad or the Il Tram Chopped. Their Beverly Hills location has pleasant outdoor seating, and they are even open until 4 am on Saturdays if you’re in need of a late-night panini fix. There is also a more casual café-style location on UCLA’s campus.
Chicken Special Panini | Courtesy of il Tramezzino
Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles
Located on a tree-lined avenue in Westwood Village, the Italian Cultural Institute is a wonderful resource for those looking to appreciate Italian culture, learn the beautiful language, or simply experience more of the Italian community in Los Angeles. In addition to offering highly praised language courses with small class sizes and engaging educators, the ICI hosts exhibits and events such as film screenings and concerts to celebrate Italian artists. The Institute is part of an initiative by the Italian government to bring the best that Italian culture has to offer to the United States, and many would argue that this initiative is a success.
Modeled after an ancient Roman country house, this relative of the Getty Center transports you to the Italian countryside upon entering the premises. With elaborate landscaping, water lily ponds, and bubbling fountains, the Getty Villa offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city without venturing further than Pacific Palisades. Whether you’re stopping by on a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway or looking to spend the entire day absorbing ancient culture, it is worth the trip. The museum features Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities and a large library of art books, as well as jewelry and coin collections.
This Downtown spot takes their gelato very serious. Made in small batches every day, Gelateria Uli does not shy away from experimenting with new flavors – they even have a forum on their website inviting patrons to suggest flavors and vote on them. If your flavor is chosen and ends up in the display case, you win a pint of your flavor, which truly engages the patrons. Some of Uli’s most intriguing flavors include yellow corn, rosemary toasted hazelnuts, and Thai iced tea. They do, of course, stay loyal to traditional flavors like stracciatella and amaretto.
Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra – Best Italian Music
In 2013, Los Angeles gained the Virtuosi Orchestra, a non-profit organization and 22-string orchestra that is dedicated to advocating for and supporting music education. The orchestra was founded by Carlo Ponti, Jr., who now serves as the music and artistic director and is also the son of Italian movie star Sophia Loren. The LAV debuted in 2014 at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole and has garnered acclaim ever since. In a superb demonstration of its dedication to music education, the LAV has partnered with three grade schools in the Los Angeles area to enhance their music programs.
While also an upscale eatery, Caffé Roma is a great place to enjoy an afternoon espresso or latte and take a moment to relax on the patio. Caffé Roma attracts a lively European crowd and is always packed at night, offering live music and a happy hour menu. Regulars flock to this restaurant for the great food, but the ambiance and people-watching opportunities certainly enhance the experience. Their menu includes a selection of traditional pizzas, as well as pastas like spaghetti cacio e pepe and popular meat dishes like the pollo Milanese.
A staple restaurant, C&O Trattoria is a casual eatery steps away from Venice Beach. The garlic knots have a reputation of their own – they are generously served right when you sit down, and waiters continue to circle the restaurant refilling your plate with buttery, garlic bread balls. While C&O offers a unique beachside dining experience, their large portions and innumerable pasta dishes will keep you coming back. Some favorite pasta dishes include the pappardelle with short ribs and the four cheese ravioli with a pesto cream sauce. Their eggplant parmesan and chicken marsala are delicious, but be sure to try the pasta as well.